Friday, November 30, 2007

Court fee stamps

Every RTI application has to be accompanied with a fee (unless you are a BPL person, in which case there is no application fee at all). In Tamil Nadu it is 10 rupees. According to the act, this can be paid as cash, dd, cheque or postal orders. But all of these had problems. Govt departments refused to accept cash. To give a DD or a cheque one needs to find out the name in which the instrument has to be drawn, which would mean a visit to the department (since they dont give much response on the phone), which in turn means you are made to run from this bench to that bench. Then came in a rule saying, court fee stamps can be used to pay the application fee. This made a huge difference (at least to me). Since then filing RTI applications has been a breeze. Just write out a letter. Affix court fee stamps worth Rs.10. And courier it. Governments cant refuse court fee stamps, no need to find out the name of the officer in whose name cheque or DD has to be drawn. Just stick those stamps and send it.

But court fee stamps had to be purchased from vendors. I had initially bought some stamps. I was asked for a commission of 2 Rs for evey 10 rupees stamp. I didnt realise it at that time, though after that it somehow dawned on me that the commission was illegal. After all, while buying a normal postal stamp, we dont pay 6 rupees to get a 5 Rs. stamp. So the next time I visited a taluka office, I tried to find out the place where I can get court fee stamps without commission. They directed me to a person from whom I bought the stamps without commission. After some days, yesterday, I wanted to buy more stamps. I didnt want to go the first vendor again, and so I decided to get it directly from somebody in a court. So I went to the Saidapet court. There again there was a dealer. I asked for stamps but was made to wait. I waited there patiently for a few minutes, all the while, seeing lawyers who came after me, buying what they wanted and going away. I got irritated. I raised my voice and asked her to give me my stamps first since I came in earlier. She asked me how many I wanted. I said, I wanted twenty 10 rupee stamps. She asked me for 220 rupees. I told her I wont give any commission. Instantly she put the stamps back in its compartment in the table and continued selling things to other people who had come. I came out, of that vendor's place. Tried to find out whom to complain to about this. Then started my merry-go-round.

I talked to a couple of people in the administrative office there. I explained to them that I was being asked for commission, where I need not pay any. I was asked to go the area's registrar's office which was a couple of kilo metres away. So I went there. In that building, again when I asked for the officer with whom I can complain about this, I was told that they dont have any authority on court fee stamps and only the treasury issues them. So I was asked to go to the treasury (which was within the court compound). So I had to go back to the court, this time to the treasury office. There they told me, that though they issue court fee stamps, the vendor licenses were issued by the the Registrar's office. I explained that I was just back from the Registrar's office where I was told to go to the treasury. But I was again told, that I had to meet meet the AIG officer (whatever AIG stood for) in the registrar's office. So I went back to the same office where I had previously enquired, and I was told that, that particular officer will be in Chennai only on Mondays. But I asked the next senior officer that I wanted to give a complaint against the vendor in the Saidapet court. She asked me for the name of the vendor. I said I didnt know the name, but isnt the fact that she is the vendor in the Saidapet court, enough to identify her. She told me that licenses are not issued to addresses within saidapet court, so I had to get the name. By this time I had already spent a lot of time, and so decided to get the stamps and leave the place. At least, I had found out the place to complain against vendors who charge commission illegally.

Just outside this Registrar's building there was a vendor. I went to him. I told him that I needed court fee stamps worth Rs. 200. He said he wanted 210 rupees. I told him that I wont pay any commission. He looked at me for a couple of seconds. Then asked me why I needed the stamps. I told him that I dont need to tell him why I needed the stamps. He must have been irritated. He made me wait for 10 mins while he was issuing stamps papers to another customer. After 10 mins, I asked him if he is going to give me the stamps. He gave me the stamps. I gave him 200 rupees. He look at it, and asked if there was anything else. I said no, and left.

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